Glendine Leonard sat with a colorfully embroidered shawl (one of her purchases from a trip abroad) around her shoulders while describing her adventures to the ladies of the AAUW (American Association of University Women).
Leonard, 85, has visited over 50 different places around the world—all trips taken after she turned 53.
During her college years, Leonard studied history and math. That was the start of her learning and yearning about other places. After she graduated, Leonard taught for a few years, went back to college, and acquired her Masters Degree in order to start a career as a librarian. She remained a book connoisseur throughout her years as a librarian, reading about foreign countries—countries that she craved to visit. She wanted to see the places that she had heard about for years.
“Books make me want to see the place, and then to read books about the places that I have been,” said the former Colville Junior High School Librarian. “I like plays and so I wanted to go to London and see what kind of plays they put on.”
Preoccupied during her younger years with raising two kids and working at her librarian job, she never found the chance to travel. But the day she turned 53, she finally took the plunge.
“I like history and just to be able to actually go to Pompeii and see what everybody talks about. I wanted to actually see,” Leonard explained.
She decided to travel to Japan. She signed up with a program that was called Elder Hostel, but has been renamed Road Scholars. The tourist group offers over 800 adventures to its customers—the only catch is that you have to be 45.
“Anyone over 45 is old enough,” said Leonard with a chuckle.
The group was originally designed for older people who want to learn as well as travel. But now Road Scholars has a group specifically designed for more seasoned citizens who would like to bring a younger traveling companion—such as a child or grandchild—who are under the minimum age requirement. Leonard highly advised traveling with a companion. Traveling alone, even traveling alone with the Road Scholars, is not a very enjoyable experience according to Leonard.
“When I go with one of the tours, I find that people are very clickish,” she said. “When you travel with someone, that is who you are going to be with. If you're not traveling with someone, then you're lost,”
Despite the tendency of travelers to stick with their own friends, Road Scholars is designed to include everyone in the group. Because there are over 800 adventures to choose from, Road Scholars offers a wide variety of traveling choices to people.
“It [Road Scholars] has a fantastic display of things to study and things to do,” stated Leonard.
Not only does it include a large range of adventures for the interested traveler to explore, it also includes an overall cost that includes all of the excursions in the trip.
The first trip
As stated previously, Leonard traveled with Road Scholars to Japan for her first trip. In Japan, she went on excursions to see the island nation. One day, she spent the whole day with a man who she could not communicate with. He didn't speak English, and she didn't speak Japanese. She was finally able to communicate with him through his daughter and expressed a desire to buy a children's book. He brought her a book called “Make Way for Ducklings.” But she wanted a true Japanese book, the kind that she called “backwards.” (In Japan, the books are turned from the right cover instead of the left cover.) After much discussion, he brought her a true Japanese children's book.
One of the most poignant moments of her trip to Japan occurred while Leonard was standing in a crowd, observing the crowds of people in Japan.
“I looked down over a sea of black heads, but when I landed [back home] in Vancouver, I saw the same scene [except] they had gray and blonde and all different shades. It just illustrates the variety of people we have in North America.”
After her first trip to Japan, Leonard traveled extensively. She saw places like China, Egypt, Thailand, Venice, China, Greece, Nebraska (yes, Nebraska), a Hawaii cruise, Paris, Sicily, France, Florida, Mexico, Rome, and England, to name a few. Her most recent adventure was a trip to South Africa only a couple of years ago.
Memories of Africa
On her flight to South Africa, the plane traveled over the North Pole and landed in Cape Town. Leonard noticed the different rotation of the sun.
“When I travel from Spokane, the sun is in my lap, and I'm going North. In Africa, I have to be going south [when] the sun is in my lap.”
In Cape Town, Leonard took a tour of the botanical gardens. However, she was more fascinated by the statues in the gardens than she was with the flowers.
“At the botanical gardens, there were all kinds of sculptures. I had been wondering what the current art of South Africa was because you always get these little homemade things.”
After she explored Cape Town, she was able to take two safaris. The first safari that she took was in a national park, but she did not enjoy the tour.
“There was so many people at that national park,” she said.
She enjoyed the private farm safari much more. She said that there were only about three land rovers at the private farm while she was there. She said she was awed by the animal life at the farm. She said that the animals are raised around land rovers so they aren’t phased by the noise.
“We saw so many lions. And when a lion roars, you know it,” Leonard said.
Not only were lions on the farm, but the farm was also home to many other types of wildlife.
“The wild ostriches on the beach were a surprise. There were ostriches wandering around acting like chickens,” explained Leonard.
While in Africa, Leonard visited Victoria Falls in Zambia. Victoria Falls is one of the ten wonders of the world, “according to somebody,” quipped Leonard. Despite her jokes about the importance of the falls, she was taken aback by the depth of it.
“It was absolutely gorgeous. It is so deep; it is just a slit in the world. At Niagara [Falls], you sit back and can see the whole scene, but not at this one. You have to get up close. I wondered if they lost anybody because it was a little bit scary.”
But standing on the edge of Victoria Falls was not enough for Leonard. She wanted to see the falls from “another view”. Leonard decided to ride in an ultra-light airplane over the falls.
“I had always wanted to ride in a balloon, so I decided to ride in an ultra-light airplane,” said Leonard.
She survived her ride over the falls, even though she described the plane as a “kite with a lawn-mower motor attached.”
Even though Leonard experienced many moments when she enjoyed her travels, she also had moments that caused difficulty. She was even hospitalized in one country. But Leonard knows the traveler's road will not always be smooth—sometimes she has to go over a bump or two.
Bumps in the road
“You have bumps along the road; it could be rainy, or windy, or—beautiful.”
While Leonard fondly related anecdotes about her trips around the world and displayed the relics she has found in different countries, she told the AAUW ladies that she does not plan on continuing her adventures abroad.
“I'm 85-years-old, and I've gone 50 places,” stated Leonard. But she does not promise that she will remain in Colville. “At this point, the only place I could travel is in the United States.”